Things That Matter

An Indigenous Mexican Woman Is Set To Get Own Statue Replacing A Colonizer In Mexico City

Cities and countries around the world have been grappling with the white supremacy that has shaped so much of the world we continue to live in today. Part of that movement has been the taking down of controversial statues that glorify this racist history.

From New York to London to Bogotá – and now Mexico City – statues of colonizers, warmongers, and conquistadores have been taken down. In some instances, the spot where those statues once stood remains empty but officials in Mexico announced that this iconic Indigenous woman would have a statue built in her honor and placed where the former 143-year-old statue of Christoper Columbus once stood.

Mexico City is replacing a 143-year-old Columbus statue with one of Indigenous woman.

Mexico City has taken down a 143-year-old statue of Christopher Columbus – which was located on the city’s most iconic street – in preparation of replacing it with a figure more in line with today’s community. The move was announced by Mexico City’s Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum on Monday and has been met with mixed reactions from the city’s residents.

She said that relocating the statue was not an attempt to “erase history” but to deliver “social justice.” The mayor added that the Columbus statue “would not be hidden away” but that the civilizations which existed in Mexico before the Spanish conquest should receive equal recognition.

For more than 143 years the statue has sat on top of a pedestal in the middle of Paseo de la Reforma, in the heart of the city’s bustling tourist and financial district. Following massive protests in 2020, the statue was temporarily removed to undergo restoration works. But now the decision has been made to not return the statue to the pedestal. Instead, it will be replaced by a sculpture of an Indigenous woman as a way to recognize the native cultural legacy in the country and the continent.

Many see the move as a lack of respect for the city’s culture and history but the majority of the city’s residents appreciate the statement against the conquerors who pillaged Indigenous communities in their conquest for gold and power.

The new statue will feature an Indigenous Olmec woman.

In her announcement, Mayor Sheinbaum said that the sculptor Pedro Reyes was working on a statue of a woman from the Olmec civilization, which flourished in the Gulf of Mexico from 1200 BC to 400 BC. The new statue is set to measure nearly 20 feet in height and will be called ‘Tlali’ which means ‘land’ in Nahuatl.

Officials in Mexico City are taking similar steps to those in cities across the world.

The Columbus statue in Mexico City is just the latest to be removed following a growing movement in cities around the world. As more people begin to recognize the violent and White supremacist history, many agree that we need to lift up those cultures and communities that were violently erased from the continent.

Although Columbus isn’t the most controversial figure among those who set sail to the ‘New World,’ many accuse him and his movement of facilitating what would come just decades later. Many previously said that the Spaniards brought ‘civilization’ to Mexico, but that’s simply not true. Mexico was a thriving and cosmopolitan nation home to millions of Indigenous people long before Spain and other colonists arrived. It’s about time that history is recognized in statues along busy avenues just as Spaniards were before them.

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